Bo Muller-Moore, the man behind a line of “Eat More Kale” screen-printed shirts and bumper stickers, wanted to trademark his catchphrase to protect it from poaching. Chick-fil-A, however, considered itself poached.
Chick-fil-A, a fast food chain with over 1,800 locations in the U.S., sent its first cease-and-desist letter to Muller-Moore in 2006—but things heated up considerably when Muller-Moore applied for trademark protection in 2011, according to The Guardian. Another “aggressive” cease-and-desist letter was deployed shortly after. The letter, according to Forbes, claimed that “Eat More Kale” was too similar to Chick-fil-A’s slogan. The company’s claim noted Muller-Moore’s catchphrase “is likely to cause confusion of the public and dilutes the distinctiveness of Chick-fil-A’s intellectual property.”
The letter also highlighted 30 other businesses whose “Eat more” phrases had been successfully legally discouraged. Chick-fil-A’s trademarked slogan is “Eat Mor Chikin." Its ads feature the phrase in child-like writing supposedly written by cows, who evidently don't want to be killed and eaten, and point to chickens to take the fall.
After a three-year legal battle, during which Muller-Moore amassed more than 15,000 Facebook followers and over 42,000 signatures on an Change.org petition, the “eat more Kale guy” prevailed. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office ruled to give “Eat More Kale” trademark protection. The victory is considered an important one for small business owners, the local food movement and even Vermont itself.
Vermont's governor Peter Shumlin and Muller-Moore held a joint press conference last Friday to discuss the win. “The message is out: Don’t mess with Vermont. And don’t mess with Bo,” Shumlin said. “In Vermont, we care about what’s in our food, who grows it, and where it comes from. That’s what Bo and Eat More Kale represent. And that’s something worth fighting for.”
Bo Muller-Moore put it bluntly: “I am now allowed to protect my simple, original art from copycat artists, and hopefully Chick-fil-A’s trademark bullying spree can come to an end. I hope mom-and-pop operations across the country will see this as a victory for all of us.”